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Jan 27, 2017
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Shop Direct owners could sell stake in firm as sales soar

Jan 27, 2017

The reclusive owners of the Shop Direct retail giant could be about to sell a stake in the firm either via a private sale or a stock market listing, according to a report.

Veryexclusive is Shop Direct's higher-end operation

Sky News said it has learnt that the owners will decide with their advisers in the next few weeks which route to take for the partial sale of what it said would be a “significant chunk” of the retailer.

The business, which has morphed from a catalogue specialist into one of Britain’s most successful online sellers, is believed to be worth around £2bn.

Shop Direct includes littlewoods.com, very.co.uk and higher-end Very spin-off veryexcluisve.co.uk, as well as a finance arm. It is believed that one option on the table is a sale of the Very business as a standalone operation.

Shop Direct was among the success stories of the recent Christmas season with a 9% sales rise during the seven-week period to December 23. That followed a 40%-plus underlying pre-tax profits surge in its last financial year.

Despite its heritage in stores and catalogues, the business has shown itself to be one of the most nimble in reacting to the rise of e-tail and especially m-commerce. It is also moving fast to integrate artificial intelligence into its operations.

The company is owned by publicity-shy billionaires the Barclay Brothers, who also own the London Ritz Hotel and Telegraph Media Group. Analysts said a stock market listing is seen as the least likely option given Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay’s dislike of public scrutiny.

Neither the Barclays nor Shop Direct have commented on the report.

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